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LEYENDECKER: WW II SATURDAY EVENING POST COVERS

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Posted 2 years ago

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Alfredo
(476 items)

It took time, but I finally have them: the four Saturday Evening Post New Year's Leyendecker covers, from 1940 to 1943. The 1943 cover was the last he ever made for SEP, having been supplanted by his former disciple and mortal rival, Norman Rockwell.

The images themselves have a twisted, grotesque quality that defies semiotic description, since the image does not correspond to the message ("Baby" does not equal--or signify-- "war"). Or maybe the message is not so subtly subversive: a culture who worships war from "babyhood".

The 1940 c0ver (pic. 1) places together disparate elements: a gas mask (more aptly a tool in WWI), a suitcase and an umbrella. It points to the massive mobilization of troops occurring in Europe. The USA had not yet entered the conflict; the cover is also a preview of what is yet to come. So is the 1941 cover (Pic. 2), since the USA is not dropped" into the conflict until after Pearl harbor, on Dec. 7th of that year.

The 1942 cover (Pic 3) shows a baby holding a rifle while crouching on top of an earthly globe. The image is quite a graphic depiction of a favorite American belief: the USA as a war/peace global police. Finally, in an image of unmitigated violence, the 1943 cover of a GI baby bayoneting an swastika, the sign for the Nazi empire.

Leyendecker was let go shortly afterwards. He had exhausted his semiotic vocabulary. In other words, he repeated himself and his imagery no longer had a hold on the American collective imaginary.
Rockwell did not challenge or provoke; welcome to the American 50's.

I must point out that Leyendecker babies resemble Kewpie dolls, first created for the Ladies Home Journal by Rosie O'Donell in 1909. But his first New Year's baby was from 1908!

Comments

  1. vetraio50 vetraio50, 2 years ago
    The American Innocent. Besides the Swastika I recognise the Italian Fascist Fascio and the axe of a Greek Labrys, but what is the other symbol at top left in the 1943 cover?
  2. Alfredo Alfredo, 2 years ago
    I think it is JCL's version of an exploding Imperial Sun. And I really think these are anything but innocent! Let's say too many flesh tones.
  3. ho2cultcha ho2cultcha, 2 years ago
    wow! i didn't know these were also Leyendecker! i have two others i don't see here. i'll post them now.
  4. Alfredo Alfredo, 2 years ago
    Sweetheart, they are signed!
  5. ho2cultcha ho2cultcha, 2 years ago
    i know now, but i never even knew who he was before today!
  6. ho2cultcha ho2cultcha, 2 years ago
    in taking another look at these, i am even more blown away by these images! brilliant, thought-provoking juxtapositions! they are more about how europeans [or at least one brilliant european] saw america and our unique, immature, naive, spoiled, and surprisingly deadly and decisive role in the world at the time. we were the rich baby in a world where everyone else was in debt up to their eyeballs and the young upstarts in the americas [those south of us] were experimenting w/ default as a real solution to their debt problems. the old european nations who were embroiled in expensive efforts to maintain their pieces of the pie were mad as hell because that pie wasn't feeding them anymore.
    leyendecker was from europe - thought of as our 'parents and aunts and uncles' by many - warring parents, uncles, etc. european countries were still thought to be vastly superior to the rest of the world militarily, culturally, financially etc. but the american military had grown by leaps and bounds in the first 40 yrs of the 20th century and europeans probably thought of us as a baby w/ a new and very dangerous toy. they [europeans - leyendecker included] had a very clear understanding of how dangerous and bloody these toys [war] were and we were on the verge of finding out. there was a lot of opposition to american involvement in the wars. the monroe doctrine was very much accepted - it was okay for us to fight for anything in 'our' hemisphere, but we don't need to go fight and die to protect other people's toys in their sandboxes. but britain [churchill] was masterful in manipulating american sympathies - appealing to the dutiful son complex and it was very effective. the 'precious' baby turned into a war monster and we have maintained that role ever since. leyendecker was brilliant and foresaw this and the ungrateful dude shoved it in our faces! the powers-that-be did not want america to wake up and realize that we'd become a monster and so they hushed him up in favor of the saccharine lullabies of rockwell - which reinforced the fantasy of how good and just america is in this fair world we had created for ourselves.

  7. Alfredo Alfredo, 2 years ago
    I have many Leyendecker New Year covers--remember he started in 1908 with a stork delivering a baby in a package--but none remotely approaches the ferocity of these images. There is a further irony. He was doing the covers for the SEP, one of the most right-wing reactionary magazines ever, thanks to its editor, Garet Garrett. I have saved some of his articles as well.
  8. ho2cultcha ho2cultcha, 2 years ago
    leyendecker or garrett wrote the articles? on what? i'd love to read other people's analysis of leyendecker's work. i feel like there's a lot more there than meets the eye - a world of secrets even.
  9. Alfredo Alfredo, 2 years ago
    Leyendecker never wrote anything. I am referring to Garrett's rants against government and the New Deal. Most of what has been written on leyendecker does not hide his homosexuality but does not relate it to any subversive aesthetics.
  10. ho2cultcha ho2cultcha, 2 years ago
    although i think that the gay inuendo is very present in much of his work, i think that these new year's covers are unrelated to this. i see these as ingeniously subversive - many ironic messages and the juxtaposition of fresh baby flesh and sharp/dangerous instruments of war gives me a physical reaction. they almost had to be created by someone who had a substantially distant perspective of the subject - babies and america.

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